Boondocking with Your Airstream

  1. When you fill your tanks with water, even at a reputable source, you can’t always be sure of the water quality or if it tastes “good.” Carry a separate container (ours is 7 gallons) for “good” drinking water. It has a spout and is fastened in place with a strong bungey-cord.When we find water that’s potable but doesn’t taste very good, we fill our main RV tank which we use only for washing and flushing. Then we purchase water to fill our drinking water container. It’s cheap – $2.00 fills our 7 gallon tank at most water filtration kiosks.
  2. Use paper towels (Viva brand is strong, absorbant, and cheaper than other comparable brands) to wipe all debris from your dishes before washing them.
  3. Trying to conserve water when rinsing your dishes? Use a safe, vegetable-based dish soap (Simplicity is one brand – available at Wal-mart) so that rinsing is not as important..
  4. Use less dish soap – you won’t have to rinse as much.
  5. Cook in easy-to-clean pots and pans. (e.g. Teflon coated)
  6. Conserve water by steaming your veggies (in about an inch of water) instead of boiling them.
  7. Wash dishes in a separate tub (that fits inside your sink), dump used dish water outside or down the toilet since the black tank always holds way more than the grey. If you don’t flush with water every time you use the toilet, it’s a good way to add more water to the black tank.
  8. Showers are a luxury for when you have easy water access. Otherwise, for daily hygiene, a sponge bath or “bird bath” as some call it, does the trick quite well.
  9. If you insist on a shower, “Navy Style” is the only way. (Wet down, turn water off, lather up and wash, then turn water back on for a quick rinse.) Showering in cold (or tepid) water is a good way to resist the temptation of drawing it out (and probably more true to actual navy style).
  10. Shower outdoors whenever possible to save on waste tank capacity.
  11. Install an on-off controlled shower head (a dishwashing spray nozzle is great) to replace your RV shower head – it gives far greater control.
  12. Wash your hair using a non shampoo method. (Try Dr. Hulda’s Clark’s recommendation of Borax followed by a citric acid rinse which we’ve been using for 12 years). This conserves water because it won’t require as much rinsing plus washing your hair outdoors won’t harm the environment.
  13. Wear your hair short – it takes less shampoo and less water to wash and rinse it.
  14. While waiting for hot water from the tap, catch the running water in a clean jug to reuse it. If you’re about to do the dishes, you could put the first (cooler) water in the rinse tub.
  15. Turn off the pump and don’t use water to flush the toilet after every use. Instead, clean the bowl with a toilet brush and a spray disinfectant once or twice daily. If you insist on flushing with water, keep the pump turned off, and keep a jug of (already used once) water by the toilet . Catch water when you shower, or from washing your dishes for this.
  16. Don’t run the tap while brushing your teeth. To wet your toothbrush, shave, or wash your face or hands, conserve water by turning the tap on to just a slow dribble.
  17. Use public toilets when available. In the desert or forest, unless local regulations don’t allow it, go for a walk with a small camper’s shovel in your pocket. Bury your waste at least 6 inches deep. Don’t bury toilet paper because animals will dig it up. (Tent-campers do this, so why shouldn’t you?)
  18. Even when you use your RV toilet, don’t flush toilet paper. Instead seal it in plastic (keep used sandwich baggies or bread bags in the bathroom) and put in your garbage. This also reduces the amount of chemicals you need to add to your tank.
  19. Here’s a novel idea: buy reusable plastic ice cubes – they conserve water by reusing the same water again and again and have an added bonus – chilling your drinks without diluting them.
  20. If parked near a creek or lake, conserve water by using clear stream water to flush your toilet. (I include this hint with a caution…you don’t want any unseen, unknown “critters” invading your tanks.)
  21. Don’t ignore a water drip or leak – repair it immediately.
  22. Laundry – small items like socks or underwear can be soaked (the longer the better) in a 5 gallon pail, then use your toilet plunger to churn them until clean. Otherwise laundry requires too much water and is best saved for a laundromat.Some RV catalogues sell a washtub called Wonderclean ($35.00). You fill it with water, add clothes and detergent, close it, and churn by hand. Reviews from other RVers say: “Don’t buy it.” Your clothes come fairly clean but it takes a lot of water to rinse the clothes and still more to clean the grime out of the washtub afterwards, and then there’s the challenge of wringing the clothes out….
  23. Carry some (collapsible) water containers in your travel (toad) vehicle at all times. You may run across a water fill where you least expect it.

Safe Boondocking

Boondocking Safety

Many RVers are held back from the joys of boondocking by concerns about boondocking safety. Aside from wanting the amenities and full hook-ups, safety concerns are the reason most people cite for preferring developed pay-campgrounds.If you’ve made up your mind to be paranoid, you probably won’t even be reading this, but if you’re looking for boondocking safety information and advice to put you mind at ease, read on.Being female myself I know how, particularly for women, our instincts can kick in when dealing with the unknown. Also, as most people, I’m prone to be influenced by what I hear from others.When we started on our first yearlong RV trip in 2000, we found various locations across northern Ontario to spend the night by boondocking but, before crossing into the “big bad States” (ooooo I was afraid), I insisted on purchasing some sort of protection.So before crossing the border, we stopped at a hunter’s outfitting store to purchase “Bear Spray”. This is, in essence, pepper spray. The packaging makes it clear it is to be used as protection from bears only, not from people.So, feeling a bit better, at least no longer afraid of a bear breaking into our RV while we were sleeping, we crossed bravely into the USA and Northern Michigan. Because we didn’t know the ropes yet (we hadn’t even heard of boondocking, never mind boondocking safety), and we weren’t aware of the fabulous inexpensive and free camping opportunities in the National Forests we were passing through.A week or two later, while crossing the Big Horn Mountains, we met a couple who had been traveling for months. They told us that they camp in dispersed camping area in the National Forests. Because other people – hikers, hunters, fishermen and RVers use these isolated free campsites all the time, we realized they must be a safe option.From this point on, we discovered many other boondocking opportunitiesto camp in safe legal locations that suited us perfectly, for not only cost but also privacy and scenery.Boondocking (or dry camping) refers to RV camping in a remote area,without being hooked up to water, power or sewer.Dispelling Your Fears For me, there were 3 parts to dispelling my initial fears about boondocking safety.

  1. Hearing about other’s experiences and taking comfort in their recommendations.
  2. Experiencing boondocking in remote locations first hand without incidence.
  3. And most importantly, thinking rationally about my fears and what really was behind them.

So, while I hate to say that “fear is all in your mind”, it would seem that it is. And you can change your mind.That’s not to say there aren’t places and reasons to be cautious in this world. Not only as far as RVs and boondocking safety are concerned, but in any situation, you need to let your own common sense rule.The Common Sense Approach To Boondocking Safety I truly believe that everything in life, even sitting in a chair and breathing, involves some element of risk. Each of us decides for ourselves every day what risks we are willing to take. If your risk tolerance is exceptionally low, you’re not likely to be traveling at all or reading this boondocking safety web page.When it comes to quieting our fears, nothing’s more effective than knowledge and experience.From 8 years of boondocking experience, here are my common sense conclusions, insights and boondocking safety advice.

  • When it comes to robberies, statistically, I’m much more likely to be a victim in my house than in my RV.
  • Setting up camp down a dirt road on public land makes me no more a target for a thief than anyone who builds a home or cottage on a country road in a remote area
  • My RV is much less appealing to a thief than a permanent residence in that I don’t have the same amount of valuable removable furniture or fixtures that can easily be converted to cash.
  • I’m often only camped in one location for a day or two…not enough time for a thief to scope the place out and get to know my routines.
  • Although the majority of RVers are honest nice people, even if we’re camped in a “secured” campground or an LTVA area with other RVers all around us it doesn’t mean there isn’t a thief amongst us or that we’re safe from a break-in or robbery
  • I admit that, like many people, at home I don’t know some of my closest neighbors and I have very little time or interest in seeing who comes in and out of their yard. Most RVers will agree that when we’re traveling we’re much more likely to get to know and keep an eye on our neighbor’s property than when we are at home.
  • In most boondocking areas, the common courtesy is to leave space, a few hundred yards minimum between campers. In campgrounds, where units are closer, if someone (a stranger) is walking towards or around the immediate area of your unit, it may not be as obvious or noticeable.
  • We use common sense when selecting a place to stop. When it comes to boondocking safety we trust our intuition and drive on if the environment doesn’t “feel” safe.
  • The further from civilization, the more safe it feels to be camped where we’re totally alone.
  • There’s safety in numbers. This holds true for boondocking safety. Especialy when we’re closer to urban areas, we want others, RVers, truckers etc. within view.
  • Most thieves are lazy. That’s why the majority of RV break-ins occur within easy access of the cities where most thieves hang out. We avoid boondocking when we’re within a short drive of the biggest cities.
  • Most thieves don’t want to deal with any type of struggle so the easiest time to steal our possessions is when we’re not in the RV. As with any parked vehicle, we don’t leave cash in the RV and keep valuables out of sight.
  • Because we’re inside our motorhome at night, our RV is much more likely to be a target in the daytime or evening while we ‘re parked for shopping, dining out, or going to a show in any urban location than when we’re camped in an out-of-the way boondocking site.

Dos and Don’ts of Boondocking Safety SignageThink about what signs you’re displaying. What does your RV say to the passer by? We don’t have the option to control our out-of-town license plates, but we can control any other signs that we post.

  • Don’t advertise your name anywhere outside of your RV. Someone could knock on your door in the middle of the night calling out your name — trying to make you think it’s someone you know.
  • If you want your fellow RV friends to be able to find you, do carry a distinctive sign or flag. Not something that shows your name or address.
  • Avoid stickers that indicate you’re a full-timer. These could be a boondocking safety concern, making you a target, because they indicate that all your worldly possessions are onboard the RV.

Beneficial SignageWhen it comes to boondocking safety there is some signage that could help to protect your RV.

  • A sticker to indicate a guard dog or alarm system is onboard.
  • If traveling alone, put 2 chairs, an extra pair of men’s shoes (size large), or a large dog water-dish outside your door.
  • Our first used RV came with a sticker for Ducks Unlimited. Although we don’t carry guns, we felt it gave the impression that we might, so we left the sticker on the vehicle.
  • I would however avoid stickers such as “NRA” or “Protected by Smith and Wesson” because these might give you problems with police and border patrol personnel who could use them as sufficient reason to search your vehicle.

Other Common Sense Advice on Boodocking Safety 

  • In parking lots, truck stops or roadside areas, don’t look for the darkest concealed corner. Instead park in the light, and use blackout curtains or eyewear that block the light while you sleep.
  • No matter where you are parked, if trouble does come to find you, driving away your vehicle can be your best defense.
  • Park so that you can leave by driving forward. If you need to leave in a hurry, you don’t want to have to back up, or do more maneuvering than necessary.
  • Keep your vehicle in the best possible operating condition.
  • Believe it or not, the only boondocking safety concern isn’t burglars. No matter where you’re camped, in case of a medical emergency, be sure you have enough fuel to make it to the nearest hospital or all night gas station in the middle of the night.
  • Don’t be paranoid. Just cautious.
  • When you’re in a community of RVs, even in a gated pay campground, make a point of getting acquainted with your neighbors before you leave your RV unattended for the day.
  • In small towns, if there’s no signage to the contrary, ask at the grocery store or gas station or even ask the local police about using the town park or a parking lot to “spend the night”. If you get a positive response, you’ll have the added security of them knowing you’re there and watching out for you.
  • Always be attentive to your surroundings.

Protective Safety DevicesWhat if you still feel unsafe and want added security? What are the best protective self-defense devices to have for boondocking safety?

  1. A vehicle that is ready to drive away from a dangerous situation. The safest is an RV where you can access the driver’s seat from the bed without going outdoors.
  2. The common sense to hand over whatever cash and material possessions are demanded without any hint of objection.
  3. A dog large enough to intimidate and trained to follow through on your command.
  4. A working installed alarm system that sounds a loud alarm.
  5. An audiotape of a barking dog that you can turn on immediately when needed.
  6. A loud alarm that you activate manually by touching a button.
  7. A cell phone with a charged battery…so you can dial 911. The intruder will most likely be in and out by the time the authorities reach you, but seeing or hearing you make the call, may be enough to scare him off. So even if you’re camped where you don’t have a phone signal, it’s a good idea to “fake” the call to 911.
  8. Pepper Spray. It has a shelf life and must be replaced when it expires. Be sure you practice how to hold it, so you don’t end up spraying yourself in the eyes. In Canada, pepper spray is sold as bear spray and it’s illegal to use it against humans.
  9. An alternative to pepper spray is a spray bottle filled with straight chlorine. It can cause serious damage, burning an intruder’s skin and eyes, and is not illegal to carry in any country.
  10. Another alternative to bear spray and pepper spray is wasp spray.  It shoots out of the aerosol can in a solid stream for 12-15 feet.  aim at the face and works about the same as mace.
  11. Firearms and Stun guns all come under laws that will vary from state to state. Although you may live in your RV you should be aware that the law is not the same as having a firearm in your home. If you are a person who carries a gun, be sure you know how to use it and know the laws of each state and province.

Personally I believe that by carrying a gun, I’m providing one for the intruder to use against me or in his next burglary. If you do carry a firearm, are you prepared for the consequences of actually having to use it?The same goes for any object that you have to actually wield at the intruder –a knife, a club, a tire iron. Is this something you could actually do without a moment’s hesitatioPersonal Scary Boondocking StoryI’d like to end this segment on boondocking safety by telling you about the only time we have ever encountered a feeling of danger while boondocking.Despite all I’ve told you above, it was in a very remote desert location, near Gila Bend, Arizona, miles from any “big bad city.”Picture this:After visiting the nearby pictographs, our chosen campsite for the night was on BLM land, about 200 feet in from the road. There were 2 or 3 other RV’s in the area, but we had chosen to camp far enough away to not be within their view.It’s now Sunday morning about 9 am. We are just up and getting dressed to head into Phoenix for the day, when Randy looks out the window to see an old beater of a car, a driver and 1 passenger, driving off the road, and over the desert toward our RV. Looks like trouble for sure.Randy (brave man) says he will step out to see what they want. I’m not even fully dressed, but I scramble to see if we have a cell phone signal and get the bear spray canister poised and ready.My heart is in my throat as I look out to see what’s happening. The occupants are still in the car. Randy is in conversation and I can pick up small bits. Sounds like he’s talking in a normal voice. He’s thanking them. Maybe they’re lost and asking for directions?A few minutes later, they pull away and Randy returns smiling and carrying a copy of The Watchtower. We kept that little magazine and have told the story often. It shows that the followers of the Jehovah’s Witness faith really are willing to go to the ends of the earth to spread The Word.At the same time it reminds me that no matter where I am, if trouble is going to find me, it can find me anywhere. And that no matter how conscious I am of boondocking safety, my life is always in the hands of a higher power.More HInts on this Website Warm while Boondocking

Boondock Heater/Connection

Some folks wouldn’t ever think of living in their RV without the comfort and convenience of having electric and water hookups. Then there are those RVers who occasionally suffer the inconvenience of not having hookups— at their favorite hunting or fishing spot, or for the annual boondock extravaganza of the RV America gathering in Quartzsite, Arizona.Newbies to boondocking soon discover that trying to boondock using their RV furnace doesn’t work too well. Sure, the furnace heats up the RV very nicely, but running the furnace overnight to keep warm usually results in almost-dead house batteries the next morning. (The furnace fan motor pulls a lot of Amps, and can quickly drain your house batteries.)RVers with a bit more experience under their belts soon open their wallets for small catalytic propane heaters. There are some catalytic heaters that are made for RV use—and they are equipped with both an Oxygen Depletion Sensor (ODS) and a tip-over cutoff switch.Catalytic heaters put out more heat (per BTU) than blue flame heaters, most have efficiencies in excess of 99%, and they can be run off of a separate propane bottle or be connected to the propane lines in your RV.A catalytic heater usually has no fan, so no electricity is required for its operation.All propane heaters use oxygen for combustion, and an Oxygen Depletion Sensor is a very necessary safety feature when the heater is used inside an RV. An ODS senses the amount of oxygen in the air and will shut off the heater if oxygen levels reach an unsafe low level. Some of these heaters with an ODS will only operate reliably when the RV is at an altitude of less than 6,500 feet, whereas others will work just fine at altitudes of almost 12,000 feet. Check the specifications on the heater you plan to buy—before you buy it.For only occasional use, many RVers just use a regular 20 lb. propane bottle (the common size found on most BBQs). Though not recommended, most users just put the propane bottle on the bottom entry step inside their RV, attach a regulator and a 5 or 12-foot hose to the LP tank, and then put the propane heater facing toward the bedroom. (Putting a propane tank inside the RV is not recommended, and it is also awkward and inconvenient—but does the job when occasionally needed.)When using a propane heater inside your RV, it is wise to open a vent just a wee bit, so that there is a source of fresh air into the RV. The purists will open a bedroom window just a wee bit and also crack the ceiling vent in the kitchen—thus allowing fresh air to enter the bedroom and exit over the kitchen area.It goes without saying that the heater should be kept away from flammable surfaces, especially above the heater.RVers who regularly use a catalytic heater often prefer the convenience of simply “plugging in” their heater to a handy propane line whenever the heater is needed.In most RVs, the easiest location to “tap into” the propane line is under the cooktop. A low pressure propane line is usually easily spotted when you lift up the burner section.Tapping into the stove-top propane line is a fairly simple matter of disconnecting the propane line where it attaches to the stove top, inserting a 3/8″ or 1/2″ flare-style “T”, re-attaching the RV propane line to the “T”, attaching another piece of 3/8″ copper tubing to the “T”, and running the new copper tubing to wherever the quick disconnect fitting is desired.For ease of connecting and disconnecting the propane heater, many folks add a quick disconnect fitting somewhere near the stove. A quick disconnect fitting allows the heater to be connected or disconnected very easily, without requiring the use of any tools.Many RVers, being leery of leaking propane, have an inate distrust of the shut-off valve built into the quick disconnect fitting, so they add a manual shut off valve between the source of propane and the quick dsiconnect fitting—always turning off the manual gas valve whenever the catalytic heater is not connected.We particularly like the setup in our motorhome. Lifting the stove top provides easy access to the manual heater shut-off valve, and the quick disconnect fitting is hidden up under (and behind) the toe kick space under the oven—nothing is visible when the catalytic heater is not connected!

pic of hidden Quick Disconnect pic of LP shutoff valve

We noticed that the gas connection on the catalytic heater was on the wrong side (sticking out into the room— when the heater was pointed to its usual position toward the rear of the motorhome), so we decided to add the “King heater mod” (named after Richard King who did this first on his own heater) to our heater.Using a few more brass LP fittings, we routed the gas inlet connection to the right side of the heater (instead of the left side). The copper tubing is held in place by two clamps on the back of the heater case. Now, when the heater is facing the rear of the coach, the gas inlet is on the side nearest the sink, and the gas hose is not sticking out into the middle of the room.Conserve Power while Boondocking long can you stay in a boondocking location? Conserve power in your batteries to extend your stay by following a few simple tips.

  1. Find alternatives to electrical appliances. Old fashioned tools such as a manual coffee grinder, stove-top coffee perk, hand-turned egg-beater, and wind-up alarm clock are good examples.
  2. Mount a few battery LED touch lights (dollar store item) in strategic positions – inside the entrance door, over the bed, over the sink, and in the bathroom, for all the tasks where you only need a little bit of light. Use rechargeable batteries in the LED lights.
  3. Replace incandescent with florescent bulbs. Some RVers have tried replacement with LED bulbs but we find that they just don’t provide enough light to work by.
  4. Do your reading and activities that require more light in daylight hours. Save activities that can be done by candlelight (i.e. knitting) for later. Sit by the campfire or go to bed when it gets dark and get up when the sun rises.
  5. Turn the pump switch on and off as you need it because it still uses a small amount of power when left on. Unless flushing solids, don’t turn it on for toilet use. Instead, flush without the pump (no water) and clean the bowl with a toilet brush and a disinfectant once or twice daily.
  6. To use regular household appliances in the RV, you’ll need an inverter (sometimes comes with the RV) to convert to 12 volt service. To conserve power, turn the inverter off when not in use and unplug appliances when not in use. Like the pump, many of them draw a small amount of power even when not being used.
  7. Your furnace fan is a big draw. Dress warmly, use extra blankets and wear a sleeping hat and wool socks to bed. If your head and feet are warm, you will be too. If needed, turn the furnace on only for a few minutes in the morning while you wash and get dressed. A small space warms up fast.
  8. Install a catalytic heater (runs on propane without a fan) but follow all safety instructions and don’t forget to open a window just a touch when you use it.
  9. Unless you have a generator, you won’t be running an air conditioner. An inexpensive 12 volt fan mounted over the bed is great for hot nights. Mount the fan’s control switch within reach so you can turn it on and off as needed.
  10. With reasonable conservation, expect to get 2 to 4 days from your house battery before it needs to recharge. Never let it drain below 50%. If your needs are greater, and you have the space, increase your batteries, number, size, and capacity.
  11. If you have a separate exploring vehicle (toad or truck), every time you drive, take along and charge your spare house battery
  12. Charge cell phone, camera, and other small rechargeable batteries in the car while you’re driving.
  13. Park in the sun in cold weather and in the shade on hot days. Use your awnings to help shade your RV from the sun.
  14. Conserve power by opening the windows to get a breeze instead of always turning on the roof vent fan.
  15. Since you won’t likely be using your microwave,- it’s a great storage place for non refrigerated fruits and vegetables – the tight seal keeps fruit flies out.
  16. 1. Conserving ElectricityMost people can hardly fathom a day without their local utility company supplying that easy source of power. There are people who live for months in their RV without hooking up to city utilities by using solar panels, however these tips are more for the short-term RV camping trip that lasts a week or two.Most RV campers only have two batteries and you’ll need to make them last so you’ll be able to run your water pump and have minimal lighting. Unless you are camping in the winter, pick a shady location. Your 12-volt vent fan will zap your batteries in nothing flat , so using it isn’t an option. Parking your RV in a shady location is far better and keeping all the windows and doors open will circulate cool air for you.In colder months you’ll want to park in a sunny location. Bring a catalytic propane heater to warm your RV, and keep at least one vent open, and a window slightly open to provide fresh air circulation. Your internal forced-air furnace is not only inefficient, but your batteries will not last more than a few minutes.If you like to read, bring along a separate battery powered reading light, or candles, so you don’t have to use the interior lighting. Better yet, just enjoy a campfire, or relax and relish the night sky. Use lanterns, flashlights, or candles when you need to spend time inside at night.Most RV campers will have a built-in 12-volt clock. Turn it off and keep the water pump switch turned off until you need it. Don’t use the built-in 12-volt radio and other appliances. Bring a portable radio or TV instead. 2. Water Conservation

12 Volt Bed WarmerWe have used a bed warmer for several years and they are really great!  You really do stay warm and don’t use all of the battery energy running the furnace.  The bed warmer pins on the mattress and you sleep on it.  We bought ours through the following website.  Ours is a dual control, queen size.

These 12 volt models have a round cigarette lighter plug.These are commonly used in off-grid homes, RVs, Sleepers on semi-trucks, campers, anywhere there is 12 volt DC power available. Bed warmers have tabs around the edge for safety pinning to the mattress. Bed Warmer are 60″ long. 12 volt Bunk Warmer
Model 12 Volt DC Size Watts Amps Pounds Price Special
T30 Bunk 30″ 54 5 7 $85 $59
T36 Twin 36″ 74 6.2 8 $95 $79
T54 Full 54″ 94 7.8 9   $125

Q: What is the difference between an ElectroWarmth® bedwarmer and an electric blanket?A: An electric blanket is used as a covering, the bedwarmer is used under the bedding. You sleep ON it, not UNDER it. The bedwarmer attaches directly to your mattress and is covered up by your normal bedding. ElectroWarmth® bedwarmers are much more energy efficient than an electric blanket because of the way they are used. Your covers hold in the heat that rises from below. The heat from an electric blanket rises from above you and escapes into the room.Q: My home heating costs are high, will this warmer cost me more for electricity?A: No. In fact, with an ElectroWarmth® bedwarmer, you can turn down the heat in your home during the night and still sleep comfortably. By turning down the heat in your home, you will not only save on heating fuel costs, but your furnace blower, refrigerator and freezer will also run less in a cooler house. This will help reduce power costs.Q: How do I know what size I need?A: The model number of each warmer indicates its width. For fitted bedwarmers, you need to match the warmer to your bed size in both width and length.       For 12 volt warmers the length is 60 inches. The warming pad can be narrower but not wider than your mattress. For example the model T36 measures 36 inches wide by 60 inches long, and can be used for a twin sized mattress or on one side of a king-sized mattress.Q: What do the bedwarmers look like?A: The bedwarmers very much resemble a mattress pad. They are made of white material, and are about 1/4-1/2 inch thick. The fitted models are like a fitted sheet and have extra cloth at the head of the bed that allows the warmer to cover the entire mattress, and has a skirt with elastic all around the warmer to hold the warmer in place. The warmers are quilted around the heating wires. This is done in such a way that you do not feel the wires when you are laying on the warmer. The 12 volt models has several cloth tabs sewn around its border with which you safety pin (pins are provided) the warmer to your mattress.Q: Are ElectroWarmth® bedwarmers washable?A: It is recommended that ElectroWarmth® bedwarmers be hand washed. They are electrical devices that can be damaged in a washing machine. Since the bedwarmers are used underneath your bed coverings, there is not much need to clean them on a regular basis.

The Comfort Control thermostat cycles the warmth on and off at short intervals. It pulls full rated amperage only when cycled on. The amount of time it is cycled on versus off depends on the Comfort Control setting and room temperature. Experience has shown that on the average, it is cycled on less than 50% of the time. Since rated amperage listed is maximum if it is on 100% of the time, the average load on the battery system is 50% or less of rated amperage (reports of battery problems have been negligible over the 30 years we have offered the 12 volt products).


* Note: Wattage and amperage shown for dual control models is total. Each side is rated 1/2 the total shown.Here is another good website dicussing Boondocking.  Check it out

Boondocking basics by Paul Bernhagen

This information was developed for a Life On Wheels class which Paul Berhagen taught on the subject.Will We Be Roughing It?Boondocking does not mean doing without. It simply means adjusting the way you do things to stretch the use of your fresh water, maximize the capacity of your gray and black tanks and get the most out of the power you have available. In fact, the following boondocking tips can even stretch your stay in a partial hook-up campground.Some think of boondocking as free camping. In some cases it is. Other places charge RVers to boondock, such as national parks, some BLM areas, festivals, rallies etc. On cross-country trips, when RVers need a place to pull off the road for a night, many will stay at truck stops or Wal-Marts. We all know an overnight in a Wal-Mart parking lot is likely to cost us more than a campground. Wal-Mart does too! That is why they are happy to give us a place to get off the road.Whether you boondock in scenic places, at rallies, on the fly in a parking lot or find yourself in campgrounds with partial hook-ups you will find some of the following tips useful. Boondocking can be intimidating the first few times, so if you can, go with some experienced boondockers. You will find some tips work for you and others don’t. That is okay. You will also come up with some tricks of your own over time.Be Kind to People and Places

  • Take trash to town and properly dispose of it in dumpsters.
  • Keep your camping area clean.
  • Don’t put out awnings, chairs, grills, tables, etc. when boondocked in parking lots. Parking lots should only be used for overnight stops. To stay longer risks all RVers privilege of using the parking lot.

What Power Do You Need?

  • Converters do absolutely nothing for you when boondocked. A converter converts AC power to DC power. If you are not plugged in, you have no AC power to convert.
  • Chargers in most converters are too small, charging batteries very slowly. And again, you need power to charge.
  • Inverters convert DC power to AC power, allowing you to run equipment off your batteries that you would otherwise need to be plugged in to run.
  • You will want to size your inverter to the maximum load it will be used for, generally the microwave. But keep in mind that a microwave pulls a lot of power out of the battery and you will need to get that power back into the battery some how.
  • If possible, isolate water heater, AC and refrigerator circuits from inverter. This equipment has such a large draw on the batteries that they would be drained in no time.
  • Most inverters produce a modified sine wave and run most appliances. Some appliances require a pure sine wave to operate, such as some laser printers and computerized sewing machines. Pure sine wave inverters are available, however, they are more expensive.
  • Generally, the closer the inverter is sized to the load, the more efficient it will be.
  • Consider two or more inverters, a large one for large loads and a small one for small loads. Our 13-inch TV run off our 2000-watt inverter pulls two more amps an hour than when it is run off a pocket inverter. Pocket inverters plug into cigarette lighters. We run our TV, satellite dish and VCR on one pocket inverter and the computer and printer on another pocket inverter. Since inverters do not have power surges we often run the computer on an inverter even when we are plugged into shore power.Pocket inverter
  • Inverters pull power the entire time they are on, so conserve power and turn the inverter off when it is not in use.
  • If you will be using a generator to charge your batteries select an inverter with a good charger.

Will We Be Roughing It?

  • Don’t discharge your battery more than 50% (12.2 volts). Discharging more than this can damage the battery.
  • Use a digital voltmeter to check battery voltage. To get an accurate reading the battery needs to be at rest (no power draw or input) for at least 2-3 hours. This means the best time to check the battery voltage is the first thing in the morning before you turn on the power and before solar panels or a generator start to charge the batteries.
  • Check batteries monthly for water usage. If the caps are sealed with a label, cut through the label to access the caps and check the water. This will extend the life of your battery.
  • Use a digital Volt-Ohm-Amp meter to determine how many amps you are using.

Digital Volt-Ohm-Amp meter

  • Unplug all 120-volt appliances when not in use as even when they are off they draw power. While they may not draw much power, the little bit they do draw adds up. This can have a big impact on how long the energy in your batteries will last.
  • Using a switch box with surge protection makes it easy to turn things on and off.

Switch box

  • Charge small appliance (cell phone, computer) batteries, using a small (pocket) inverter, while driving around.
  • Energy labels on appliances generally show a higher power draw than you will have.
  • Select a quiet generator and size it to fit your needs. Be considerate of your neighbors.
  • Coffee makers, hair dryers and toasters all put a large drain on your batteries.
  • Control your phantom loads. These loads put a constant load on your batteries that you may not even be aware of.
  • Conventional ovens are better suited for boondocking than convection ovens, which require a generator.
  • Tow vehicles provide minimal battery charging. While the alternator may be rated to put out plenty of power to charge your batteries, the wires coming off the alternator do not carry much load at all.

How to Flip a Switch

  • Conserve power by removing bulbs from multiple light bulb fixtures or turning on only one light bulb at a time.
  • Fluorescent lights give more light per Watt.
  • Turn lights off when not in use.
  • Bullet style lights pull little power and concentrate light where needed.
  • Avoid AC lights, which require an inverter to turn on.
  • Skylights provide lots of light.
  • Large windows brighten a room.

That’s Entertainment!

  • Turn the antenna booster off when not in use.
  • Use a smaller TV to conserve power.
  • Turn the TV brightness down to conserve power.
  • Some radios pull power constantly. Install a switch to cut the power.
  • Laptop computers use less energy than desktop computers. Laptops also have their own batteries to use when you are in a high conservation mode.
  • Buy appliances based on their energy consumption.
  • Watch local TV instead of satellite TV. This means only your TV is drawing power instead of both the TV and satellite receiver.

Free Power From the Sun

  • If you have solar, maximize your power use while the sun is shining.
  • Monitor panels, such as an E-Meter or Link 1000, allow you to monitor amps in and out, amp-hours consumed and battery voltage.
  • You will buy more solar panels, so plan ahead before deciding where to place the first panel or two.
  • Be sure nothing shades the panels (AC, roof vents, pods, antennas, etc.) as even slight shading can shut the power production down.
  • Mount the panels so they can be tilted. This nearly doubles the power output.

Tilted solar panels

  • Position panels so they do not shade other panels when tilted.
  • Wind generators produce a lot of power, but they are noisy and you have to like wind.
  • Solar ovens work great. They minimize heat build up inside the rig and save on propane or running the generator.

Solar ovenDoes Water Always Flow Downhill?

  • Use 6-gallon water jugs, large tanks or bladders to carry water.
  • Run water slowly to conserve.
  • A 6-gallon water heater is more than enough.
  • Water heaters with a continuous pilot light will keep the water warm with just the pilot light.
  • Find out where your water pump pickup is and tilt your RV that way to get the last of your water.
  • Avoid RVs with multiple dump locations. Multiple tanks should be plumbed together.
  • Some places allow you to dump gray water on the ground. If it is allowed and you plan to dump gray water, do so daily to hold down the smell.
  • Flush the black tank with the gray tank when dumping. Once you have dumped the black tank, hold the hose up high so that the gray tank water is forced into the black tank when you pull the gray valve. When the water stops rushing close the gray valve and put the hose down to allow the black tank to drain out. Do this two or three times.
  • Drive carefully with full holding tanks to prevent a rupture.
  • Water is heavy (8.3 lbs/gal). Fill up close to your destination or haul water after you are parked.
  • Select an RV that does not require pressure for filling the fresh water tank.
  • Buy another demand pump to fill the water tank if yours requires pressure to fill the tank.
  • Avoid tank less instantaneous hot water heaters. They require a fair amount of water to run before the heater starts to work. Also, when the pump cycles on and off you get hot and cold bursts of water.
  • Don’t leave water running while brushing your teeth.
  • Only run the water heater as needed.
  • Select an RV with large tanks. Recommended minimum sizes: 50 gallon black, 75 gallon gray, 70 gallon fresh.
  • External tank monitors are precise and can be added to most RVs. Stop guessing how full your tanks are.

Can Water Hit the Shower Walls?

  • If you do not have a thermostat on your water heater, you may wish to time how long it runs. With just a small amount of practice you can figure out how long to run it, in different climates, to get the water temperature just right to take a shower running only the hot water. This eliminates both wasted water from adjusting the faucets and cold bursts when turning the water on and off.
  • Catch water while waiting for the hot water to reach tap. This water can then be recycled to the fresh water tank, used for drinking, cooking or watering pets.
  • The water heater should be as close to the bathroom as possible.
  • When showering run water only long enough to get wet and rinse off.
  • Catch shower water with a dishpan. You can stand with one foot in and one foot out of the dishpan as you shower. The water you catch can then be used to flush the toilet.
  • Set adjustable showerheads to minimize the water output.
  • Don’t waste water rinsing shower walls.
  • On/off valve on shower hose allows you to turn the shower on and off without adjusting the faucets each time.
  • Shower less often.
  • Baby wipes are great for washing faces, taking sponge baths and cleaning spots out of clothing.
  • Take showers back to back when more than one is showering. This reduces the time your water heater needs to run.

How Does the Dishwasher Work? 

  • Use paper plates to reduce dishwashing.
  • Wash dishes only when needed.
  • Wipe dirty dishes with paper towels to minimize water usage.
  • Pocket meals reduce dishes. Pocket meals are meat and vegetables wrapped in foil and placed on the grill. Do dishes after showering to minimize the water heater run time.
  • Heat water on the stove for dishwashing.
  • Wash dishes in a dishpan. Dispose of or recycle the water for toilet flushing.
  • Wash all dishes, then rinse all at once under slow stream of water. Catch this water for flushing.

Do You Know How to Flush a Toilet? 

  • Install a water shut off valve on the toilet and flush with jugs of water. This can cut water going into the toilet by up to two-thirds.
  • Use rinse water from dishwashing for flushing.
  • Catch and use shower water for flushing.
  • Use lake, stream or rainwater for flushing.

Don’t Touch That Thermostat!

  • Furnaces pull lots of power.
  • Use ceramic, blue flame or catalytic heaters. Vented models pull power. Un-vented models can be vented by cracking windows. By code, RV manufacturers cannot install un-vented heaters. If you install one, be sure to crack the window when running it.
  • Orient RV for warmth or coolness. If the weather is chilly, park so the sun comes in the windows. If the weather is hot, park so the sun does not come in the windows or so awnings minimize the sun coming in.
  • Use awnings to keep the RV cool.
  • Fantastic fans pull little power and are very effective.
  • Add another blanket rather than run the heater all night.
  • Dress warmer or cooler to conserve energy.
  • Move north or south to better a better climate.

Not All Refrigerators Are Created Equal 

  • If your refrigerator has a humidity switch, turn it off.
  • Refrigerator electronics pull power even when switched to gas. If batteries die so does the refrigerator.
  • To our knowledge the manufacturers no longer make a manual refrigerator, however, some repair facilities will convert electronic refrigerators to manual refrigerators. While you may not want to do this while the refrigerator is still under warranty, if the electronics fail after the warranty expires it may be less expensive to convert it to a manual refrigerator than replace the electronics.

Extreme Ideas

  • Paint jugs black and set them in the sun to heat water.

Solar water heater

  • Use a weed sprayer to shower with.
  • Use a solar hot shower.
  • Cool off with wet T-shirts in front of a fan.

Copyright © 2001-2008 Paul Bernhagen


By: Bob Gummersall

Tom posted an article on campground Etiquette and that caused me to think about the changing camping habits that my wife and I seem to be experiencing. When we first started motorhoming we found ourselves looking for a campground almost every night for the conveniences, safety, and TV hook up for the night. We used private, public, and membership campgrounds and about time to quit driving we were pouring over the directories to find a place to stop. Once in a great while we would dry camp or boondock on public land, truck stop, rest area or parking lot. Our touring has always been spending a two to four days getting somewhere, spending several days enjoying the new area, then a couple of days getting to a new place and a few days there. After about four weeks my bride of 42 years had that motherly desire to get back to the nest and the Grandkids. Then it was time to get home in the fewest number of days possible. We still travel that way, to places, rallies, races, relatives, reunions etc. We always planned a place to park or camp at our destinations. What has changed, because we now have a Satellite Dish and a cell phone with email capability, is that we almost always boondock getting to and from our destinations. It is not that we can’t afford the cost of a campground, we just don’t want to take the time and trouble to find and get parked at a campground. We would really not even like to disconnect our toad just to get parked at a site that might have soft ground, etc. This description fits many motorhomers today. It fits fewer travel trailer RVers. We are typical of many people that tour and don’t stay too long in any place. I will try to tell you the things that are important about boondocking and the proper etiquette to use.

Picking a suitable place to dry camp has several aspects. Safety, convenience, location, permission possibilities and noise are important considerations. Safety is paramount in our minds and we do some things to make sure we pick a safe place based on our experience. We travel with three electronic devices that provide additional safety. A Cell Phone, a good Alarm System, and the new MayDay System from Alpine add significantly to our safety while we are in our coach. The MayDay system is a GPS based monitoring system that has a dedicated cell phone and can connect us to a real person monitoring our condition in the time it takes to make a call. It is activated if the alarm goes off, if we press the emergency button and when the coach batteries go down. Since they know exactly where we are they can immediately dispatch the proper service. The Alarm System sounds a siren and flashes lights if someone tries to break into our coach. It also allows us to sound the alarm from a key fob in the bedroom if we hear things we don’t like outside. The siren and lights flashing will probably scare people with bad intent away from our coach.

Not all rest stops are good places to park over night. If you are near a big city where the crime rate is high or in a State that has a bad reputation then do not pick Rest Stops. Similarly, I won’t pick a Truck Stop if the area has a bad reputation. Both of these types of area are shared with over the road truckers and call for special etiquette. I will always look for a way to my small rig tucked into a place that an 18 wheeler can’t get into. At truck stops like Flying J and TA centers, there are usually areas designated for RVers. At rest stops, I always try to find a place that is legal but would be very hard for a truck to use. If two of us are traveling together, we will take one long spot that would normally be used by one truck. I will always pull up in back of a small Class C that has decided to stop so that we take just one spot. I am able to back up my rig enough to get out, even with the toad attached (takes practice). Truck Stop and Rest Stops are choices that are extremely noisy especially in the summer when we want to leave the windows open. We find a few nights a year when it is real hot when we want to run the generator to run the air conditioners. So in this case we just get in there and add to the already noisy environment but with the windows closed it is possible to sleep even with the noise. Running the generator where there is already a lot of noise is OK in my book. Even though we share the space with truckers we feel it is all right since we pay highway taxes and buy fuel. We just try to be as considerate as possible in sharing this space.

Parking overnight in parking lots is one of our first choices. WalMart, K-Mart, Costco, Grocery Stores, Cracker Barrel and other businesses allow overnight parking in their lots, which are generally not highly used after 8pm. First and foremost, we always ask permission from the Manager of the appropriate business. Recently at a Cracker Barrel, we had stopped for dinner at about 6pm and it was about 7:30pm when we asked the manager if he wanted some RVers for an early breakfast. The parking lot was already almost empty, so he said sure. Four of us from two rigs, had a nice breakfast at 7 am and went on our way after a night in a quiet parking lot. Other businesses do not allow overnight parking, so look for signs and ask permission. Many times we have been watched over by the night security guard which added more safety to our stay. In this type of parking we never open the awnings, get the barbecue and chairs out or otherwise “camp”. We just park for a quiet sleep. We find the smaller towns with local businesses are also receptive to use of their parking lot at night. It is always better to park where there is more than one rig parking, because there is safety in numbers. In some small towns, we have gotten permission from the local law enforcement to use one of the city’s parking lots and hence gotten added security. When others are parked with you, it is only common courtesy to keep the noise down like not running the generator until after 7am. On occasion we have used Church Parking Lots to spend the night. Especially on Saturday night, since we are Catholic, we look for a church that has a 5pm vigil Mass, then ask the pastor to spend the night in his empty parking lot. Some of the times, they have even offered to let us plug into electricity. We have also parked at Elks halls, some even have hook ups, and other service/social club parking lots of course after getting permission.

When visiting relatives we normally park in their driveway, if there is room. If local regulation allow we will also park on the street in front of their house. A quick call to the local police station will tell you if this is legal. Otherwise we find a campground that is close.

Again while making miles getting to a destination, we look for the convenience of a large flat place that is close to the highway in a safe environment. Common sense is important when selecting a place to stop. Trust your intuition and drive on if the environment does not “feel” safe. If you are on private property, ask permission. If you are on public property, ask permission. If you don’t know, ask permission. Don’t camp, just park and get some rest. Don’t make any extra noise. Be quiet when getting started in the morning. Don’t idle your diesel for 30 minutes because that’s not good for the engine anyway. Limit the time you spend to times when the space is not needed by the business. If you leave the rig while it is parked, leave a note with your cell phone number on it, so that owners or authorities can reach you if there is a problem. Don’t leave pets in the rig.

Boondocking for multiple days in one location is another etiquette story to tell in another article. Maybe someone who has spent a month on BLM land in Quartzite will contribute an article for the benefit of those who plan extended stays on public land. Is anyone out there willing?

 Boondocking Etiquette

“Boondocking” means camping in your RV with no hookups. There are two types of boondocking. One type is parking in more out-of-the-way places, usually for several days or even an extended period of time. Public lands offer many opportunities for boondocking.

The other type of boondocking is often referred to as “blacktop boondocking,” that is when you camp overnight on a Wal-Mart or shopping center parking lot or in a truck stop. Some call it dry camping since you are not in the “boonies.” RVers choose to spend the night on parking lots because of convenience-they don’t have to drive miles off the highway to a campground. Other RVers boondock because of budget reasons; they can’t see paying $20 or more a night to stay in an RV park when they are traveling from point A to point B and won’t be using the amenities the park has to offer. Whichever type of boondocker you are, these guidelines will help you (and your neighbors) have a better experience.


•                Get permission from the manager.

•                Purchase dinner, fuel or other items as a thank you.

•                Park away from other vehicles, along the sides of the parking lot. In a truck stop, if there is no designated area for RVs, park off to the side or to the back away from truckers. Truckers will appreciate you not taking their spaces, plus it will be less noisy for you.

•                Do not get chairs and barbeque out, nor put out your awning. Avoid using your slideouts if possible.

•                Stay only one night.

•                Pick up any trash you have generated.

•                Because boondocking on Wal-Mart’s parking lot is a hot issue in many towns, following these simple rules will help keep these places open to travelers who want a night’s sleep before moving on. Disregarding them, especially making your area look like you’ve moved in for a lengthy stay, is what gets local RV park owners up in arms. They see RVs in a Wal-Mart or other parking lot as revenue they should have had. Escapees RV Club provides Boondocking Etiquette cards you can download and then leave on an individual’s windshield who is not following these guidelines and jeopardizing the rights of other RV travelers as well.


When we think of regular boondocking, we think more of camping in wilderness areas, often on public lands. Campgrounds in public lands generally do not provide hookups. The USDA Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) also allow camping outside their designated campgrounds. In some places, it is called “dispersed camping.”

Serious boondockers modify their RVs so they can take advantage of free camping in pretty places. Solar panels and an inverter keep batteries charged. A catalytic or ceramic heater is more efficient than the regular RV heater and doesn’t draw down the battery. Boondockers may have a Blue Boy®, a portable waste holding tank, so they can take blackwater into a dump. They carry water jugs to haul water to their fresh water tank. Boondockers learn how to conserve both power and water so they can extend their stays and may even use solar ovens for cooking and heat water with the sun. (To learn more about how to boondock effectively, see the article by Paul Bernhagen at

Most campers are here for a wilderness experience; they enjoy the peace and quiet. Following these guidelines will help all enjoy their stay as well as protect the environment.

•                Park in previously used areas. Do not create a new road or parking spot or run over vegetation.

•                Park away from other RVs so each can enjoy the peace and quiet. If you do have a generator you plan to run, park far away from other RVs and limit your use to an hour or so in the morning and another in early evening. Generator noise carries and is not part of the wilderness experience.

•                Respect quiet hours. Do not run generators or play TVs or radios loudly after 10 p.m. or before 7 a.m. (Some areas may have different quiet hours so check with the agency.)

•                In some areas dumping grey water on the ground is permissible. Always check with the agency first. Dumping black water on the ground is never permitted.

•                Leave the area cleaner than you found it. Dispose of trash in a trash container after you leave.

•                Read and follow the agency’s rules regarding fires, collecting firewood, and quiet hours. Respect time limits, which are typically 14 days.

RV groups meeting on public lands should choose an area large enough to accommodate their group without damaging the environment and should respect the rights of nearby campers that are not part of the group. They should also educate their members, who may never have boondocked before, on ways to extend their battery power without constantly running their generators and on ways to conserve water.

For many RVers, boondocking is the true RV experience. The ability to camp without hookups is one of the advantages of RV ownership; you can camp free of charge and use the systems that were designed to be self-contained. Using courtesy and common sense can make your boondocking experience-whether on blacktop or in the wilderness-a good one for you and other RVers.